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The Greilick Pioneers

Godfrey Greilick was a well-known architect educated in Germany and a contractor in Kratzau, Austria in the early half of the 1800s. Many of the more imposing structures in Kratzau, as well as in other parts of Austria, were the result of his work. He and his wife Theresa had five sons and two daughters while living there. One daughter died at eighteen months.

There was much unrest in Austria and surrounding principalities leading to the so-called European Revolution in1848. Godfrey made the difficult decision to move his family to America. Tragically, son Ferdinand died at age 14 while the family was crossing the Atlantic. He was buried at sea. They arrived at New York City July 4th, 1847 where they lived for the following six years.

In 1854, the family moved to Chicago and a sixth son, William, was born. The family moved to Norrisville in northern Michigan (later renamed Greilickville) in 1856. Godfrey built a sawmill at the stream near where Cherry Bend Road now is located. Although Godfrey was fluent in three languages, through some strange machinations of the mind, he never was able to master the English language of his adopted country. In 1874 a tragic piledriver accident took Godfrey's life at age sixty-three in Traverse City.

The elder son, Joseph E. Greilick (1834-92) became a partner in the Hannah-Lay Company. He married Nancy Case in 1868 and they had six children: Clarence, Ernst, Amy, Frances, Arthur, Edna, and Josephine. As in other similar circumstances, Perry Hannah helped Joseph to establish his own business. In 1879 he built a large plant at the comer of Bay and Division Streets where he produced finished building materials such as interior and exterior door and window framing. Known as the "J.E. Greilick Co.", it became "one of the most valuable manufacturing properties in this section of the state". The business received a great boost when it was selected to be the sole source contractor for finish materials to be used in building the State Hospital buildings. Joseph built a beautiful "modern" home on West Bay near the City limits. It was one of the first houses in the area to have running water. This was made possible by Judge Ramsdell giving the right to use a bountiful spring flowing from his property. Permanent rights later were deeded to Joseph's widow, Nancy, in gratitude for her kindness to the Ramsdells in nursing them back to health from some sort of tragedy, presumably a fire. Joseph was very well thought of in the community, being civic-minded and a generous public benefactor. He was elected Trustee at the first charter election of the Village of Traverse City, April 1881.

John Greilick (1840-1898), the second oldest son of Godfrey, also worked for Hannah-Lay. He married Salina D. Weller and they had two children, Walter E. and Ida. John left Hannah-Lay and in 1862, started building a mill and brewery near their father's mill, in partnership with his brothers, Anthony and Edward (who also had been working for Hannah-Lay. In 1881, they bought half interest in a Suttons Bay saw mill and bought it out two years later. The "Brothers" also stocked Darrow's Mill on Carp Lake. They got into the shipping business by selling the brewery and buying the schooner "Lake Forest". For their fleet, they built one of the "best" docks on Traverse Bay and acquired the "Granger". Additions to their fleet included the schooner "Minehaha" and tugs "Drisco" and "Charles C. Ryan". In the year 1883, "The Greilick Brothers" cut eight and one-half million feet of hardwood lumber.


Brother Edward Greilick (1845-1901) married Caroline Ansarge who also was born in Austria. Their four children were: Louis, Julia, Hattie, and Alfred.


Brother Anthony Greilick was a skilled blacksmith but went into the lumber industry upon becoming a partner in “The Greilick Brothers."

William Greilick, born in 1854 was the youngest and only son of Godfrey and Theresa born in the United States. He was employed by the "Greilick Brothers" in Suttons Bay as a millwright and general manager for eleven years. Then William lived in Traverse City. He never married. It was said of him: "he is a frank, candid man, intelligent beyond others whose life has been devoted to long hours and hard work, but the most refreshing feature of his disposition is a passion for minding his own business and the granting to all people a similar privilege". The only daughter of Godfrey and Theresa to live beyond infancy was Mary, who married Frank Brusch in Traverse City where he conducted an extensive meat market.

The remarkable accomplishments of this one family and the lasting influence they have had in shaping our community's history, represent the best in achieving the American Dream.

- Compiled by Clint Kennard, 1996

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